Butterflies That Bleed

Avery Katumba-Nakabaale


VANESSA BISASO: Early 20s, trans woman, tall, and child of George and Maria

GEORGE BISASO: Late 40’s, tall, and father to Vanessa.

MARIA BISASO: Early 40’s, short, and mother to Vanessa.

SCENE: The living room is dimly lit. Vanessa enters with ecstasy ripe on every part of her carrying a backpack. The lights brighten. Sitting in the room is George in the single seater. His jaw is clenched and hands curled up in fists. Maria stands next to him, hands crossed and crestfallen. She tries to make eye contact with Vanessa but she can’t. Vanessa’s smile drops as soon as she glances at the table in the centre of the room. It had all her make-up, outfits and shoes.

GEORGE: Where are you coming from?

VANESSA (shaky):  My friend’s place.

GEORGE: What were you doing?

VANESSA: Final exams are soon so we were having a discussion.

GEORGE: If I check your bag, will I find books?

VANESSA: (silence)




VANESSA (meek): I left my books at her place.

GEORGE: I don’t care. Show me what’s in the bag, then. Now!

Vanessa, in terror, unzips the bag. Her hands tiptoe inside. She peeps a little bit of the wig from the bag.

GEORGE (CONT’D): Nja kukuba [I’ll beat you].

Vanessa displays the wig.

GEORGE (CONT’D): Everything.

Vanessa pulls out a dress and heels.

George walks up to her and snatches them from her.

GEORGE (CONT’D): This is the nonsense you waste my money on? Didn’t I expressly warm you about this?

His gaze sets her ablaze – she turns her attention away from him.

He grabs her by the jaw.


VANESSA(teary-eyed):  Yes, daddy.

Maria can’t bear the sight anymore.

MARIA: George, don’t be rough with him. 

GEORGE: You encouraged this. See the sissy he’s grown into. I repeated that to you many, many times to not indulge him.

MARIA: I thought he’d mature out of it.

GEORGE: You found those in his room.

MARIA: Give him a chance to explain himself; maybe, there’s a good reason.

She shifts to Vanessa with her eyes oozing with desperation.

MARIA (CONT’D): Andrew, I know these things aren’t yours. You…you outgrew this. Tell your father?

VANESSA (relents): They…aren’t mine. I was keeping them for a friend.

GEORGE: I passed my warning about hanging around that James boy.

VANESSA: They aren’t his. I’m holding them for a girl in my course.

GEORGE (pushes her from his grip): You must think that I’m a dwansy.

(throws the clothes at her) Put them on.

MARIA: George, you’re taking this too far.

GEORGE (to Vanessa):  NOW!

Her pace is slow.

GEORGE (CONT’D)(clapping): Yanguwa, yanguwa [quickly, quickly]!

The dress is pins and needles as it clings on her body. The hair weighs a ton and the heels are quicksand. Something that imbues her with euphoria, now shrouds her with ache.

GEORGE (CONT’D)(mocking): The only thing missing is make-up to complete the look.

MARIA: George… 

GEORGE: He wants to be a woman, I’m letting him.

VANESSA (in tears):  Daddy, please…

The tears invoke seething anger in him. He slaps her.


He grabs her by the back of her neck and drags her to the table with her things.

MARIA: George, please, be gentle.

GEORGE (to Vanessa): First thing in the morning, I want all of this in ashes.

VANESSA (shattered): Daddy…

GEORGE: The neighbours should not catch sight of you disposing any of this.


I’m taking you back to Father Raymond tomorrow to exorcise whatever demons are left lodging in you.

Conviction ignites in Vanessa’s bones.


GEORGE (pushes his hand off her)

(stunned by her nerve): Kidemu [repeat that]!


(grabs as many clothes as her arm can carry)


VANESSA (CONT’D): I refuse to see that horrid excuse of a human being and you will not take the only thing that gives me a shred of happiness in this house.

MARIA: We only want what’s best for you. Listen to your father.

VANESSA: What for? I’m tired of this! If it’s not the shorts giving you an issue, it’s the jewellery. If it’s not the jewellery, it’s a pink shirt. If it’s not that, it’s my posture or mannerisms. It doesn’t end! I’m sick of always considering your feelings in whatever I do.


I told you what that man did to me and you want me to go back there. I won’t… I won’t.

MARIA (approaching): My son—

VANESSA: Don’t. If you held a thread of true and honest care for me, you’d let me live in my truth.

MARIA: What truth?

VANESSA: Don’t act like you don’t know.


VANESSA (CONT’D): You can’t even admit it?

 MARIA: You’re my son. That’s the truth I know. You can’t kill him.

VANESSA: He never existed in the first place.

MARIA: Don’t say that! You can change. If you have a problem with Father Raymond, I can find someone else.

VANESSA: I don’t want to see any of them. I’m your daughter, why can’t you see that?

GEORGE (chuckles): What brand of stupidity are you on?

MARIA: George, you’ve been cruel enough. 

GEORGE: I’ve barely begun. We’re going to church tomorrow, they’ll deal with you.

VANESSA: I’m not going!

GEORGE: You don’t have a choice in the matter.

MARIA: They can help you.

VANESSA: I don’t need it!

GEORGE: If you ever want to set foot in this house, that is your currency.

MARIA (rebuttal): George, he’s our son. 

GEORGE (firm): It’s final.

VANESSA (packing her things in her bag): I refuse to be held hostage for stale crumbs of love. Every little thing that gives me an escape from you, you get the need to destroy it or rob it. And, with who I am, I’m not giving you the pleasure of tearing me down to my bones. And, for what? The only thing I’ve earned is your cheap validation. I’m tired.

GEORGE: Where will you go? We’re all that you have. At the end of it, you can’t run from your roots.

VANESSA: You will not shackle me to barren soil. I’m free to move my roots somewhere, where the ground can allow me to pasture.

She heads for the door.

MARIA: George, why aren’t you stopping him?

GEORGE: Let him leave! He’s due for a lesson on how the world is.

MARIA (entreating):  No, don’t leave, please?

 GEORGE: You walk out that door, never come back.

She glares at him as sure as rain.

VANESSA: I don’t plan to.

Vanessa leaves.

The lights dim.

Maria crumbles into agonising tears.


Avery Katumba-Nakabaale is a Ugandan filmmaker, screenwriter, poet, songwriter, and novelist. She has written for the small screen for a television series, Prestige, and a short film, Crazy Math Genius. The genres she writes in include drama, thrillers, and fantasy.


*Image by Amin Moshrefi on Unsplash

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